Protests against voter registration process in many governorates [Archives:2008/1209/Front Page]

November 20 2008

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, Nov. 19 ) Protests against the voter registration process organized by supporters of the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) have spread to most Yemeni governorates. The JMP have finally announced that they will boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections in April 2009.

Security authorities on Tuesday arrested more than 70 protesters in several governorates, fearing they would hinder voter registration procedures in their areas. JMP sources accused security authorities of using excessive violence against protestors and treating them in an uncivilized manner.

JMP member parties condemned what they described as “hysteric practices” pursued by the authority, and its insistence on confiscating democracy and denying people their rights to participate in free and fair elections.

JMP Spokesman Mohammed Al-Mansour denounced the government's crackdown on peaceful protests in many governorates and the arrest of 70 JMP activists and supporters, who had been peacefully protesting against illegal election procedures and the illegitimate election management body.

Al-Mansour warned against the potential consequences of such irresponsible acts by security authorities against citizens, holding the ruling party and its government accountable for any consequences of such arbitrary practices that will only lead to further crises.

In a statement to various media outlets, the JMP Spokesman said, “The current arrest campaigns launched by the security forces against citizens are intended to shift people's attention from the individualist procedures taken by the government and its ruling party in the electoral regard.” He described those arrest campaigns as “hysteric”.

Plan to rig elections

Protestors in the various governorates strongly denounced what they described as “mishandling of the voter register as part of a plan to rig the upcoming elections”.

In Taiz, thousands of citizens organized protests in front of various voting centers in the city and the security authorities arrested 52 of them. The protesters called for the government to stop mishandling the democratic process, which the ruling party plans to control.

In Shara'ab district of Taiz governorate, the JMP organized a huge popular rally near the district's voting centers in which the opposition coalition supporters expressed their strong rejection of the voter registration process and upcoming elections. In addition, protesters in the Maafer district demanded that voter registration staff leave the area.

In Sana'a governorate, thousands of citizens in a popular rally in Hamdan district backed demands raised by the JMP. The rally released a statement saying that the JMP's demands proceed in favor of the nation and its future and consider the reform of the electoral system to be key to carrying out comprehensive political change. In the capital city, the guards of Sana'a University arrested as many as 20 students from the arts and commerce faculties over distributing statements to people to boycott the voter registration process to allegedly save Yemen.

In Hodeida, thousands of citizens held sit-ins in front of voting centers, protesting against the government for continuing an illegal voter registration process. They raised banners and signs showing their strong rejection of any elections to be based on illegal voter registration process. The protestors sent letters to the Hodeida Governor and local councilors, declaring their objection to the voter registration process, currently run by the authority, and demanding that voter registration staff be removed from their areas.

Similar protests took place in the governorates of Ibb, Mahwit, Hajja, Al-Baidha, Marib, Dhamar, Abyan and Shabwa. Citizens in the Al-Radhma, Dhi Sifal and Yarim districts of Ibb governorate organized huge popular rallies, protesting against the presence of voter registration staff in their areas. At a massive rally on Tuesday, Yarim citizens raised signs, denouncing the job undertaken by the voter registration committees, saying their work contradicted the principles of political action.

Protesters throughout Ibb released statements, condemning all the steps and procedures taken by the ruling party and its government. They encouraged citizens to continue the struggle until they obtain all their democratic rights.

The statements noted that participating in the elections, according to the ruling party's conditions, was nothing more than a comedy meant to deny people's democratic rights, help the survival of corruption, risk the future of coming generations, waste the country's resources and produce further crises.

In the Hubeish district of the same governorate, citizens protested against the process. They released a statement labeling what is happening as an illegal procedure that does not reflect promises made by the ruling party during the most recent presidential and local elections.

According to the statement, the illegal procedures taken by the government may only serve to foment sedition among citizens and feed conflicts to reach irresponsible partisan achievements and retain corrupt individuals in government, while citizens still have no access to basic services.

Security authorities in the Beidha and Abyan governorates arrested many opposition activists for allegedly distributing statements instigating citizens to boycott the voter registration process.

Registration offices closed due to poor turnout

In the governorates of Sa'ada and Dhamar, two of the largest constituencies, voter registration staff faced great obstacles hindering their performance and registered no citizens on the voter lists. The voter registration offices in the Hada district of Dhamar were closed.

On Monday, local councilors of Al-Dhalea began discussing the dire situation of citizens in the governorate as a result of political congestions and crises. The local councilors and the governor confirmed during a meeting that the controlling of the democratic process by an individual party has converted the elections into a comedy, while the unconstitutional composition of the Supreme Commission for Elections and Referendum (SCER) helped the dire situation to worsen.

According to a statement released by the meeting, the SCER was composed in a way contravening Article 159 of the Constitution, but boycotting the elections via democratic and peaceful means is a constitutional right. The statement warned citizens against possible engagement in violence.

Various media sources reported that two blasts hit on Tuesday evening two voting centers in constituency no. 297 of Al-Dhalea governorate, adding that an unidentified cyclist on a motorbike threw a hand grenade at one of the targeted centers.

No dialogue between JMP and ruling party

A JMP source denied the authenticity of media reports that the opposition coalition is currently in dialogue with the ruling party to resolve election-related problems, describing such reports as “baseless”.

The source ruled out that the possibility of serious dialogue between the JMP and the ruling party on election-related issues unless the latter accepts a recent JMP proposal to approve the proportional list.

Senior Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP) leader Yasin Saeed Numan wondered why the ruling party is only concentrating on the composition of the SCER when the problem is the representation of the opposition in this commission. Numan told Al-Sharia weekly that the JMP's vision stipulates approving the proportional list in the elections.

Pro-government media outlets have reported that there is a new round of dialogue between the ruling party and the JMP. The ruling party-affiliated Al-Methaq weekly reported that both sides met on Monday and were expected to reach positive results.

The ruling party's weekly quoted special sources as saying that the list of SCER nominees was increased by Parliament to 22 instead of 15, pointing out that this procedure stipulated amending the General Election Law.